Building work on the ‘Louis-Vuitton Fondation pour la creation’ has been ongoing since 2006, and while the bricks and mortar have been scaling the local skyline, those behind this project have been fine-tuning its objectives. Branded as an art museum and cultural centre, this is the brainchild of sponsor LV Moët Hennessy, most commonly associated with the international luxury goods company after his namesake. Now the LV house have turned their hands to a collaborative enterprise which runs as a non-profit project with the founding principles of celebrating all things arts and culture-based.
For those who have seen the building prior to knowing its function, it becomes apparent that the structure is something of an icon-in-the-making. The $143 million dollar project features curved catamaran sails structured from a network of steel joints and glass panels. It is not surprising that this geometric nest recalls Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum, as Frank Gehry is the designer behind both. Evoking the Classical revival celebrated by many of the neighbouring buildings, the foundation’s design has been inspired by 19th century landscape gardening as well as nautical shapes. Fittingly perched in the park of Bois de Boulogne, the external shell is all but completed, with the sails composed of over 3,600 panels.
And so we turn from the architectural and technological feats of the exterior to the inside and Suzanne Pagé, who was poached from her directorship at the ‘Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris’ to be charged with the artistic development of the foundation’s programme. Alongside LV’s Chairman, Bernard Arnault, Pagé follows in the footsteps of Art Basel and continues Gehry’s dialogue between tradition and modernity, prioritising contemporary art for the public exhibition space. In Arnault’s words, ‘the success of the LVMH group relies on a strategy that combines timelessness with extreme modernity in the creation of its products. I hope that this same spirit will drive the Fondation.’
The foundation’s programme is set to offer a range of initiatives and open up conversation between artists, intellectuals and members of the public by showcasing work from the 20th and 21st centuries, as well as to shock, provoke and challenge through installations that simultaneously harmonise and jostle against Gehry’s architectural walls. With an immense 8,637m2 of exhibition space available, there will be scope to encounter a spectrum of work. In addition to temporary installations and artists’ commissions, there will be areas dedicated to permanent shows as well as a 350-seat auditorium which will play host to a multi-disciplinary schedule of events and performances.
The first artist to be under the foundation’s spotlight during the launch is, unsurprisingly, Frank Gehry. Running until the New Year, the foundation’s showcase will complement the first European retrospective of Gehry’s work, housed in Paris’ Centre Pompidou. Otherwise, the nature and authorship of the work to be exhibited has been kept closely under wraps, although Arnault promises that it will be a ‘pretty eclectic mix’.
There has been fairly reliable speculation that others featured will include Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jeff Koons, and Takashi Murakami as well as masterpieces from Arnault’s own collection. American artist Basquiat is as infamous for his tragic death at 28 as for his graffiti designs and work embedded in social commentary. His Primitivist paintings are piquant and emotive, delineating 1980s USA in its most base profile. He worked to achieve ‘suggestive dichotomies’, which are undeniably relished in the oscillation between old and new of the foundation’s building and ethos. For Basquiat, these tentative associations of polar opposites take the shape of poverty versus wealth, integration against segregation and abstraction versus figuration. Most in keeping with the street art with which any city-dweller is familiar, the majority of his work combines text and image, with invariably provocative results.
Meanwhile, another American artist, Jeff Koons, is commonly associated with large-scale installations of balloon animals, tulips and other purportedly ‘banal’ objects. He literally inflates these into something exceptional in fluorescent, mirrored, stainless steel gargantuan versions of the original. Given that Koons frequently displays his work under all elements, his work could christen the terraces and green areas surrounding the foundation, although this may be met with consternation from a facet of the local community, similar to that which greeted the initial construction plans.
Gehry, Basquiat, and Koons already make interesting bedfellows. Add to the mix prolific Japanese artist Takashi Murakami who repeatedly blurs the lines between textures, subjects and high and low arts and you have a melting point of cultures, ideals and media. This is in line with other multi-national commercial art projects which are founded on the principle of raising awareness and accessibility of cultural happenings. Art Basel champions these ends, having staged the world’s premier modern and contemporary art shows since 1970 in a golden triangle of Miami, Basel and Hong Kong. Although mobile, Art Basel works through a similar sponsorship to bring the best art to the widest audience.
If the opening programme is anything to go by, Arnault and LVFM are aiming to do the same. Although media attention on the foundation has declined of late, perhaps due to the delayed opening from early 2011, The Culture Trip anticipates that this West Paris location will become a firm favourite on the contemporary art trail around the French capital. For both those who have long-awaited the launch, to those who are not too sure, all can profit from free entry for the opening weekend from Friday October 24th through Sunday the 26th. With excellent transport links, those behind this project have made it possible for the best of contemporary art to be brought together in a veritable powerhouse, all directly accessible at the end of a whirlwind shuttle bus journey, Metro line or taxi service from the heart of Paris.
Fondation Louis Vuitton, 8 Avenue du Mahatma Gandhi, Paris, France, +33 1 40 69 96 00
By Anastasia Bow-Bertrand